There are 11,369 registered recreational beekeepers in NSW, proof that beekeeping is a popular leisure activity.
Not to mention that it is a viable business, with 1,159 registered commercial beekeepers across NSW.
Along with a beekeepers' passion for honey bees, the fact that they are stinging insects, fatal to those who have anaphylaxis to their venom, should always be considered in any plans and activities undertaken with our hives.
We can't underestimate the impact bees may have on neighbours, some of whom may find them a constant source of worry.
Many disputes between neighbours and beekeepers could be avoided altogether.
The following points will help you 'bee' a good neighbour and beekeeper:
- Proximity to dwellings - On a small urban block, hives should be placed towards the centre of the yard and bees encouraged by an obstacle to fly high so as not to cause a nuisance with neighbours;
- Number of hives - Two or three hives should be the maximum for an urban backyard. Numbers of hives often alarm more than strength of the hive. Too many hives in too small an area is the top complaint in beekeeper-neighbour disputes;
- Obstructions to guide flight - Bees can be trained to fly in a certain direction or height by placing an obstruction in their flight path. If the bees are forced to reach a height of say five metres to cross this obstruction, then they will fly at this height and not bother pedestrians or neighbours.
- Water supply - Beekeeper-supplied water that never runs dry is a must. Try a tub of damp sand which bees can stand on without drowning risk. Supplying water as soon as hives are set up may prevent your bees from troubling your neighbour at their pool or outdoor taps.
- Bee temperament - Bees can vary greatly in temperament and the beekeeper should keep the most docile strain possible.
- Hive management - Open hives only on warm sunny days with no risk of thunderstorms which agitate them. Before noon is the best time to inspect a hive, harvest honey or manage for swarming prevention. For bee welfare and hive temperature regulation, it's best to open hives for the shortest amount of time possible with 15 minutes per hive maximum.
Management for the prevention of swarming is critical to maintain good neighbour relations.
- For more information, download: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/bees/management/beekeepers-responsibilities/backyard